blog upd oct 28

PoliticsOctober 28, 2021

Live updates, October 28: Christchurch avoids lockdown after two delta cases; MIQ stays to be halved

blog upd oct 28

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 28, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.


The 1pm update, summarised

  • Christchurch will remain in alert level two after two delta cases were confirmed.
  • Nine close contacts have been identified.
  • Nationwide, there are 89 new delta cases: 83 in Auckland, four in Waikato and the two in Christchurch.
  • MIQ stays will be halved for fully vaccinated travellers from November 14.
  • Travellers from low-risk Pacific countries will bypass MIQ entirely from November 8.
  • All arrivals will need to be fully vaccinated from November 1.

5.30pm: Christchurch case went to takeaway joint while awaiting test result

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins says it’s “unfortunate” that at least one of the two Christchurch people who tested positive for Covid-19 visited a takeaway outlet while symptomatic and awaiting their test result.

Kens Takeaways in Bishopdale is listed as a location of interest for Wednesday, October 27 (yesterday) between 4pm-5pm. The pair’s positive test results were reported to the Ministry of Health last night. 

Speaking to RNZ’s Checkpoint, Hipkins said advice around the need to isolate when symptomatic and awaiting a test result was “pretty clear”, and it was “unfortunate” a takeaway joint had been visited. Although the pair hadn’t been using the Covid Tracer app, Hipkins said he hadn’t received any feedback that they weren’t being “fulsome” with information for contact tracers.

Hipkins said the locations of interest so far identified and the nature of the visits means they are “reasonably low risk”, and because the source of the case is known and close contacts have been identified, “the risk assessment at this point doesn’t justify an increased alert level in Christchurch”.

5.00pm: More Christchurch locations of interest

Several more locations of interest have been added to the Ministry of Health’s website this afternoon, following two Covid-19 cases being confirmed in the city this morning. They include a Z service station in Sockburn, a dairy in Linwood and takeaways in Bryndwr and Hornby, and bring the total number of locations connected to the cases to 13, for exposure times between Monday, October 18 and yesterday.

In Auckland, a number of North Shore bus trips have also been identified as locations of interest today, as have several train trips between Britomart and Ōrākei.

See the full list of locations of interest here

3.35pm: Today’s key Covid numbers, charted

Another slight bump in Covid numbers today including, of course, the pair of new cases in Christchurch. Plus: interested in how your town is tracking toward the 90% vaccination milestone?

All today’s key numbers, from The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page.

3.20pm: Opposition leaders visit Auckland as PM avoids supercity

Both Judith Collins and David Seymour will be in Auckland City this week, visiting local businesses and communities most impacted by the current level three restrictions.

The opposition leaders have been pressuring Jacinda Ardern to visit, however the PM has so far ignored those calls.

Seymour’s itinerary today involved visiting businesses within his Epsom electorate, including meeting with a hairdresser who is unable to operate during level three. Meanwhile, Collins simply tweeted to say she would be flying out of Wellington today and that Auckland “expects its leaders to listen”. The National leader has, in the past, faced scrutiny for her decision to fly in and out of Auckland during lockdown.

Under parliament rules, both Seymour and Collins will have to isolate at home for five days when returning to Wellington.

3.05pm: First Christchurch locations of interest confirmed

The first locations of interest in Christchurch, linked to a pair of new Covid-19 cases, have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health.

They include a New World supermarket and a takeaway joint in Bishopdale, where the cases live, along with a Burger King in Sockburn and a dairy in Hornby.

No new cases have so far been confirmed however at least nine close contacts have been identified. Earlier today, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said the pair of new cases were unvaccinated and were not regular users of the Covid Tracer app. Christchurch was kept, however, in alert level two.

The full list of locations can be found here

2.20pm: Border workers vaccinated abroad able to keep their jobs

A new law change will allow for border workers vaccinated overseas to keep their jobs.

Workers who have received the Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, or Pfizer vaccines overseas will be able to continue working on or around the border. The move will also support some employers when recruiting people to work on or around the border, especially for specialised roles.

“Under the previous version of the vaccinations order, their vaccination status was not recognised. But these are all vaccines that are either provisionally approved by Medsafe, or by a trusted regulator,” said Fiona Michel from the Covid-19 Vaccine and Immunisation Programme.

“The amendment updates the vaccinations order so that it’s consistent with clinical advice on the alternatives to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine,” Michel said.

A border worker who has received a single-dose of the two-dose Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines while overseas will need to have a further single dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. A border worker who has been vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine while overseas will not require a further dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

1.45pm: MIQ changes don’t go far enough – National

The National Party says the newly announced MIQ changes are a “good start” but don’t go far enough.

MIQ stays will drop to seven days from November 14, followed by three days of home isolation.

“Just two fully vaccinated travellers out of 20,000 or so people who have been through MIQ since August 23 have tested positive on day eight or later, indicating MIQ could be reduced immediately to seven days without any real risk,” said the party’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop. 

“While fully vaccinated travellers with no Covid have been spending 14 days in MIQ, more than 200 people with Covid have been isolating at home in Auckland.”

Earlier today, it was confirmed 288 confirmed cases were isolating at home in Auckland with around 270 close contacts.

Bishop said today’s MIQ announcement won’t help New Zealanders stuck overseas wanting to come home. “We need to quickly move to a situation where fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk jurisdictions do not have to isolate at all, assuming they have a negative pre-departure and post-arrival test,” he said.

Act’s David Seymour is of the same mind. In a statement, Seymour labelled the government “addicted” to power. “No amount of logic will make this government let go of power. It’s letting 288 Covid-positive people isolate because it’s run out of MIQ spaces, but it won’t let Covid-free people isolate,” he said.

1.15pm: MIQ stays for vaxxed travellers to be halved

Updated

MIQ stays will be slashed in half, down to seven days, for fully vaccinated returnees, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.

People will be tested three times during this stay, followed by a rapid antigen test before their departure. Returnees will then spend a further three days at home which will be followed by another PCR test.

This shake-up will see around 1,500 more rooms made available each month in MIQ, many of which will be used for community cases. Some will be rereleased to the MIQ voucher system. “We are well aware of the pressure on the border,” said Hipkins citing the desire from New Zealanders abroad to reunite with family and friends.

“MIQ has served us well. Over 183,000 New Zealanders have returned home through MIQ since border restrictions were put in place last year, stopping cases at the border and allowing us to live life free of restrictions for the better part of 18 months,” Hipkins said.

Next week’s release will have over 2,000 rooms.

The new MIQ requirements will kick in for travellers arriving from November 14. Prices will halve along with the time required to stay, Hipkins confirmed.

In addition, travellers from low-risk Pacific countries will bypass MIQ entirely from November 8. As with all international arrivals from November 1, they’ll need to be fully vaccinated unless they’re New Zealand citizens.

“The second stage of our plan will see New Zealand moving towards having more vaccinated people able to self-isolate at home instead of in MIQ,” added Hipkins. In the first quarter of 2022, more travellers will be able to isolate at home, but the priority is to safely transition to the traffic light system first.

Asked why the eased MIQ requirements were the same in Auckland, where Covid has spread across the community, as well as other parts of the country, Hipkins said it was a “temporary arrangement ” and that “effectively trying to set up two international borders, one for Auckland and one for the rest of the country, would be a pretty challenging exercise” for what is likely to be a short period of time.

Hipkins said officials were continuing to work through the logistics of bringing in inter-regional vaccine mandates after Covid appeared in the Christchurch community.

1.10pm: Auckland MIQ worker tests positive

An MIQ worker in Auckland has tested positive for Covid-19, Ashley Bloomfield said.

The case is now under investigation and it cannot yet be confirmed whether the case is linked to the border or the community outbreak.

Meanwhile, there are currently 293 mystery Covid-19 cases from the past two weeks – including 50 of today’s. 89 cases were confirmed today, including two in Christchurch.

Of yesterday’s 74 cases, 38 were infectious while in the community. There are now 37 people in hospital with Covid-19, including five in intensive care.

On the vaccine front: 39,220 doses were administered yesterday including almost 11,000 first doses and more than 28,000 second. More than three million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated, including 78% of the eligible Auckland population.

And on tests: 25,893 were taken yesterday across the country.

1.05pm: Christchurch avoids lockdown; 89 new delta cases

Christchurch will remain in alert level two following a pair of new Covid-19 cases in the city.

There are 89 new delta cases today: 83 in Auckland, four in Waikato and the two in Christchurch.

According to the Ministry of Health, one of the Christchurch cases recently travelled to Auckland to provide childcare. This was approved level three travel. They had a negative test before travelling north and a second negative test before returning to Christchurch on Friday October 15. The case was not considered infectious when they travelled back to Christchurch.

However, this means it has been over a week since the individual was likely exposed to Covid.

The case lives in the Bishopdale area, where vaccination rates are at 90% for first doses and 70% for second – slightly above Canterbury’s average.

The other case works as a truck driver and the company the person works for is assisting with tracking their whereabouts during the four days the person was working during their infectious period. Initial information indicates the person was completing deliveries around the Christchurch area, with some trips to north Canterbury.

Both people became unwell last week, were tested on October 26 and returned positive test results last night.

Currently there are three households where nine close contacts have been identified.

“Both cases are currently isolating safety at home, with public health oversight, and with plans underway to transfer them to a local quarantine facility,” said the ministry. “The local public health unit is gathering further information from the cases to identify close contacts and exposure events, including any locations of interest.”

People across Canterbury are urged to closely monitor the ministry’s locations of interest webpage. Currently, no locations have been confirmed. In addition, people in Canterbury – especially those who live in Christchurch – with any symptoms, no matter how mild, are asked to please get tested, even if they are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are urged to get vaccinated.

Wastewater samples were taken in Christchurch on Tuesday and Covid-19 was not detected. “ESR is collecting further samples from Waimakariri, covering Rangiora, Kiapoi and Woodend, and Ashburton, in addition to further testing in Christchurch.”

So far, vaccination rates in Canterbury have remained steady with 89% of residents having received their first dose, and 68% fully vaccinated.

Today’s four new community cases in Waikato are all contacts of existing cases.

1.00pm: A nervous wait in Christchurch

Deputy editor Catherine McGregor writes from Christchurch:

Is Christchurch on tenterhooks… or nah? That was my reporting mission on leaving home for a tour of a city that just woke to news of its first community cases in over a year. I headed to the best place I knew to take the pulse of the city: Moorhouse Ave, home to possibly the greatest concentration of supermarkets in the country. On the way I passed a whole foods store – eight people queuing outside there – and as expected, there were even bigger lines at the three big supermarkets on Moorhouse. I counted 22 people waiting to get into Pak n Save, slightly smaller numbers at New World and Countdown. It’s not all bad though – I just heard a child happily shouting that there’d be “no school tomorrow!” We’ll see if she’s right soon.

(Image / Supplied)

12.50pm: Hipkins to give update on Christchurch Covid scare, reveal MIQ changes

Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield will front today’s Covid-19 presser. We’ll get an update on the Covid-positive pair in Christchurch who had been infectious while in the community. So far, no locations of interest have been confirmed in the city however it’s understood at least one of the new cases was infectious in the community for about a week.

We’re also expecting the previously delayed announcement on changes to MIQ rules.

Here is today’s livestream or else keep this page updated for live coverage.

12.20pm: No locations of interest confirmed in Christchurch – yet

The Ministry of Health was expected to reveal the first Christchurch locations linked to a pair of new delta cases at midday – but none appeared online.

Instead, a flurry of new Auckland locations were revealed including a Remuera supermarket and a train line.

Earlier today, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said the new Christchurch cases were not regular users of the tracer app. That will mean contact tracers struggle to piece together the pair’s movements. It’s believed at least one of the cases may have been infectious in the community for more than a week.

A further update is due at 1pm and the ministry’s locations of interest list can be found here.

11.55am: Almost 300 delta cases isolating at home in Auckland

There are 288 confirmed Covid-19 cases self-isolating at home in Auckland, the city’s DHBs have confirmed.

Home isolation is a relatively new element in our Covid response, however MIQ remains the primary line of defence for returnees from overseas. This is expected to change over the next few months, with an announcement due at today’s 1pm update.

Yesterday Ashley Bloomfield said 562 cases “and close contacts” were isolating at home.

As Auckland transitioned from an elimination approach to a suppression strategy, it was important to establish low-risk ways to create higher capacity for isolation, said Northern Region Health Coordination Centre lead Fepulea’i Margie Apa. “The
home isolation model is one of our first steps towards how we will sustainably manage Covid-19 cases in the future,” they said.

Criteria for isolating at home is based on a public health risk assessment and takes into consideration a number of factors, including whether cases:

  • Live in a residence that allows them and their household to isolate safely away from others;
  • Have phone and internet access;
  • Can use their own transport to safely access a testing centre;
  • Would like to, and feel safe to be considered for home isolation;
  • Have supplies to enable them to isolate at home safely i.e. masks, food and cleaning products; and
  • Understand the isolation period for contacts in the household will be a further 14 days once the last case in the household has recovered.

11.40am: New te ao Māori podcast from The Spinoff!

Today, The Spinoff has launched Nē? Co-hosted by Ātea editor Leonie Hayden, the new podcast is by Māori, for Māori.

Read more about the show from Leonie here or check out the first episode (and that incredible artwork) below.

Follow Nē? on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

11.30am: Hamilton school closes after student tests positive

A recently reopened Hamilton school has been forced to shut its doors after a child tested positive for Covid-19.

According to the Herald, Newstead Model Country School was told of the case last night.

The school had reopened on Monday after restrictions for senior students were loosened. Some students and staff who attended the school during alert level three are considered close contacts, reports the Herald,  and have been told to isolate for 14 days.

Meanwhile, a third positive case has been reported in Ōtorohanga linked to previous cases.

10.25am: Anti-lockdown ‘hīkoi’ still parked up on Auckland motorway

Anti-lockdown protestors have spent the night on the side of Auckland’s southern motorway after they were stopped from passing through.

The so-called “Sovereign Hīkoi of Truth” left Rotorua on Tuesday evening, arriving at the Auckland boundary late that night. They were attempting to pass through the supercity to join another protest at Waitangi. Police said they blocked the motorway and stopped traffic passing through.

According to Stuff, about 75 people stayed are still near the Mercer boundary tonight, braving a night of rain. A police spokesperson said there had been no disruption to traffic through the checkpoint and there’d been “no significant issues” caused.

9.45am: False passports used to game MIQ booking system – report

There’s concern the MIQ booking system is being manipulated by third parties.

Tweets shared online show a conversation with an account called “MIQ Booking” that claims to use false passport details to secure rooms for returnees.

Unsurprisingly, it’s prompted outrage from New Zealanders abroad who are unable to return home. Grounded Kiwis spokesperson Martin Newell told RNZ the MIQ system wasn’t fit for purpose.

“You’ve got more chance of catching Covid at a cafe in Auckland than in Sydney these days. The response needs to take into account the risk… to decide what sort of isolation you get,” he said. “We need a new process to enable people to return and we need it now.”

Help is, hopefully, on the way – and soon. An announcement is due at 1pm on changes to the MIQ system. According to media reports,  MIQ stays will be slashed in half followed by three days of home isolation.

8.55am: Call for tighter rules on domestic travel after Christchurch cases

A top epidemiologist said stricter rules should be in place to stop Covid-19 spreading from the North to South Islands.

Two new cases of delta have been confirmed this morning in Christchurch, following a case in Blenheim over the long weeke nd.

Michael Baker told RNZ that New Zealand has a good contact tracing system and should be able to manage the new cases. “If there’s only one case in one household, contact tracing should work quite well,” Baker said.

The question was, he said, how many other people in the South Island could be incubating the virus. “One of the problems is that a high proportion of people will be asymptomatic or have only a few symptoms. It is quite tough to pick up all of these outbreaks very early so it’s just critical for people to come forward if they have any symptoms at all.”

Tighter restrictions should be in place for travel between the two islands, and this should be easy to implement due to the water boundary.”The first thing is limiting numbers of people going to the South Island from infected areas to just essential workers,” Baker said. Basic screening should also be in place from these areas and there should be a requirement for a negative pre-departure test and “increasingly” vaccination.

8.30am: ‘Wake-up call’ – Christchurch mayor reacts to new cases

Christchurch’s mayor is keeping her fingers crossed a snap lockdown won’t be necessary after a pair of Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the city.

Lianne Dalziel said this morning’s news was a “wake-up call” for Christchurch and she was disappointed the confirmed cases had not been regular Covid Tracer app users.

“Using the QR codes is just one of the tool, but in a really important tool, in enabling contact tracing to occur should it be required,” Dalziel told RNZ. “It’s also disappointing to hear that both were unvaccinated.” Christchurch should, within a matter of three to four weeks, cross the 90% fully vaccinated threshold.

“I’m hoping that [their contact with people] is relatively limited,” said Dalziel, who was unaware that the pair had been out and about in the community. “We know that delta is an extremely contagious virus… and as that is the case it just means that we need to be absolutely vigilant.”

Dalziel said there should be stronger requirements on people travelling from places of higher risk, such as Auckland.

7.55am: Covid in Christchurch – what we know

  • The pair tested positive last night.
  • One had returned to Christchurch from Auckland.
  • Both are unvaccinated.
  • Neither are regular users of the Covid Tracer app.
  • They may have been infectious in the community for “a number of days”.
  • An update will be provided at 1pm.

7.10am: Pair of Covid-19 cases confirmed in Christchurch

Latest

Two people in a Christchurch household have tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the pair of community cases were confirmed last night. They are both from the same household, with one of the new cases having recently travelled to Christchurch from Auckland.

“The local public health unit is gathering information from the cases to identify close contacts and exposure events, including any locations of interest,” said the ministry.

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said the new cases had not been regular users of the Covid Tracer app meaning it was hard to tracking their movements. “The nature of their contacts in Christchurch will be established during the morning,” he said. “My understanding is they’d been unwell for a while so they could have been infectious for a while.”

They were likely infectious in the community for “a number of days,” he said. Hipkins wouldn’t rule out a snap lockdown or alert level change for Christchurch.

The pair, Hipkins told Newstalk ZB, were also unvaccinated. “Any cases that pop up outside of the alert level areas where we have some containment do worry me,” he added. At least one other household has already been identified as close contacts.

At yesterday’s Covid briefing, Hipkins warned that the virus would continue to spread around the country.

A further update from the Ministry of Health is expected after a “risk assessment” has been made. There will also be the regular 1pm press conference.

Yesterday’s key headlines

  • There are 74 new cases of delta. 68 are in Auckland, six are in Waikato.
  • The parts of Waikato currently in alert level three will move to the equivalent of Auckland’s step one at 11.59pm tonight.
  • The “indicative” reopening date for primary schools is November 15.
  • 41 people are now in hospital with Covid-19.
  • There are now 562 cases and close contacts self-isolating at home.
Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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